On Monday evening’s NBC Nightly News, host Brian Williams used a perhaps revealing verb to describe a belief held by former Soviet foreign minister and Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, who died on Monday at 86.
It would be good to look back and learn how Shevardnadze came to say what he said a decade ago before getting to how Williams framed it. As reported in Doug Martin’s obituary at the New York Times (bolds are mine throughout this post):
The proximate cause of his fall was his involvement in rigged (Georgian) elections in 2002 and 2003, a violation of the electoral reform laws that he himself had sponsored. His own Supreme Court invalidated the elections.
In a television interview after being driven from office, Mr. Shevardnadze no longer spoke of perestroika or glasnost, the Russian words for rebuilding and openness that Mr. Gorbachev had popularized.
“It is not good to have too much democracy,” he said. “I think that was a mistake.”
Given what drove him from office, it’s clear that the “too much” section of Shevardnadze’s “democracy meter” clearly included any situation involving him not being in power if he so desired.
The just-described history causes one to wonder what Williams may have meant to communicate in the following segment (begins at the 16:10 mark in the video at NBC; HT to a tipster):
Eduard Shevardnadze has died. He was an old school Communist drafted to the job of foreign minister by the new-thinking Mikhail Gorbachev, and they went on to remake Russian foreign policy, ease the Cold War, warm relationships with the U.S., all in ways that have been largely reversed today.
Shevardnadze went on to run the former Soviet Georgia. After that came to a tumultuous end, he admitted too much democracy was a bad thing. He was 86 years old.
NBC’s choices of still photos to include in the segment were all too predictable.
One photo shows Shevardnadze with President George H.W. Bush. I’m not able to determine if this meeting occurred before or after the Berlin Wall fell in one of the later events signaling the final breakup of the Soviet Union’s Eastern European hegemony. The Soviet Empire’s fall was primarily brought about by the efforts of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II.
Another still photo shows Shevardnadze with late Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, who, though he cleared wished to, never held U.S. Executive Branch authority of any kind. Given that Shevardnadze’s term as foreign minister did not begin until July 1985, this meeting would have occurred after 1983, the year during which Kennedy did the following:
Kennedy’s most contemptible moment — many consider it treasonous — came in 1983. President Ronald Reagan was in the process of bringing the Soviet Union to its knees. In one of the hotter moments of the Cold War, Kennedy sent word to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov through an old friend and former senator offering Kennedy’s help in undermining the Reagan administration in its dealings with its old arch enemy in exchange for Andropov’s help in defeating Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. Think of that. A United States Senator offers to help our sworn enemy in exchange for political propaganda to win an American election.
Notably absent were any photos containing Shevardnadze and Reagan, Thatcher, or John Paul II. There certainly is no shortage of available photos of Reagan and Shevardnadze. So why not use one? Given the history and NBC’s demonstrated bias, the question answers itself.
As to what Brian Williams said about Shevardnadze and democracy, please note that he was not directly quoting the late leader. Williams did not say “quote” or “end quote” before or after stating that “he admitted too much democracy was a bad thing.”
Williams’s words would seem to indicate that he agrees with Shevardnadze. Given how Dear Leader at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington is routinely running roughshod over the checks and balances built into this nation’s form of representative government, the following question needs to be asked: “Do you really agree with Eduard Shevardnadze’s sentiments, Brian?”
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.